‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces. For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, “May peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.’ (Psalm 122:6-9 NASB)
Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day – a good time to reflect on God’s dealings with the Jewish people.
The city of Jerusalem, and her people, the Jews, are like no other. God has called the Jews to fulfil a specific purpose, and He has contended long with them to help them rise to their high calling. The world marvels at their amazing creativity and enterprise. But are they, by their industry and worldly success, fulfilling their divine call? Sadly, no. This is by no means an attempt to undermine or belittle their achievements, even in spiritual matters – for all the books of the scripture except Luke and Acts were written by the Hebrews. As Paul writes, “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God” (Romans 3:1-2 NIV). Israel is the firstborn in the household of faith.
So, what was their calling? Paul elaborates on this matter – Israel was called, and indeed, the Jews in his time believed themselves, to be ” a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth”. At the coming of the Messiah, they were to receive Him, and usher in the Messianic age of rest, blessedness and peace for the whole world. They had been specially trained and equipped by God, for 2000 years, to carry the gospel to the uttermost parts of the world. They were so close to the point of their long awaited redemption, but they tragically failed to acknowledge the Messiah – “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11 ESV). Like their ancestors before them, who listened to the voice of the unbelieving spies rather than to Moses and rebelled at the very edge of the Promised Land, they turned their faces away from Him who had come to redeem them.
The consequences were catastrophic for them, for the church and for all humanity. The judgement of God came upon them, and for the next 2000 years, they were cast off from the land of their fathers, to wander around the world, being rejected and despised in many nations. It was difficult for them to understand or receive the truth, for God Himself allowed them to be hardened, and to go their own way. “But their minds were hardened [‘closed’ or ‘made dull’]. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away” (2 Corinthians 3:14 ESV).
It fell largely to Gentile Christians, to carry the light of the gospel to the nations of the world, and finally back to the Jews. Being less equipped for the task, the Gentile church has been frail in many ways, and has often stumbled. She was prone to repeating many of the same mistakes which Israel had committed in the past – the long Dark Ages before the Reformation, the falling away and the disunity, affirm to this fact.
The church is somewhat incomplete because of the absence of this separated brother. But the good news is that this separation will not last forever, it is only for a season. “Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious” (Romans 11:11 NIV).
God in His wisdom has permitted them to wander away from Him, till the ‘full number of Gentiles are brought in’ and, then ‘Israel’s hardening in part’ will give way (Romans 11). The veil will be removed from their eyes, and they will experience a great inner transformation. “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10 NASB) and “…in this way all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26 NIV). Notice the ‘all’ – it will be a massive revival when all Jews are saved.
“For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29 ESV). We have God’s own promise that the Jews will return not only to their earthly inheritance, but to their spiritual inheritance. They will be restored to the Father’s house. When the natural branches are re-grafted into their own olive tree, we will see a time of great renewal for the whole church – “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15 ESV). What a glorious day that will be! We Christians are called to plead before the throne of God, for the return of our long lost brother. So, let us pray, never doubting that this will soon be a reality. “You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes And makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (Isaiah 62:7 NASB).
Father, thank You for restoring the Jews to their homeland. Now, restore them to their rightful place in Your House. Bring the prodigal home soon, so that we may all celebrate together. Help us obey Your command and pray ceaselessly till all Israel is saved. In Jesus’ name.